Category Archives: Off Topic

BIG Changes Coming

It's all good. I promise.

It's all good. I promise.

Hi there! I’m not a fan of announcing that I’m going to be making an announcement, but since you’re here anyway, I will. :)  BIG changes are coming very shortly. Please keep an eye out for them. I’ll let you know soon.

Thanks,

Neal

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AT&T Misses a HUGE Marketing Opportunity

The other day I received my cell phone bill from AT&T. This bill was for almost twice the amount that is scheduled in my plan. Obviously I was upset, but this post isn’t about that. It’s about how AT&T missed several opportunities to make money from me while also making me happy in the process.

Communication Breakdown, NOT!

The situation is a familiar one. Without realizing it, I used far more minutes than my plan allows for during the month (I had an unusual number of long conference calls). While working with AT&T’s Customer Service Rep to resolve the issue, I asked why I was never notified that I had exceeded my plan’s minutes, especially considering how massive the overage was. The Rep told me that I could request a notification email, but such an email would only be sent after I had exceeded my limit by one hundred minutes!

Furthermore, AT&T will not notify me when I am approaching my limit, nor will they notify me once I’ve exceeded my limit. Indeed, the only notification I’ll get is after I’ve already accrued close to two hours of additional charges billed at a significantly higher rate.

Regardless whether you consider AT&T’s failure to notify me a “shady” business practice, the one thing it wasn’t was a communications breakdown. It was a conscious decision made by AT&T because their calculations tell them that they’ll generate significantly more revenue by billing their millions of customers who exceed their limits every month at a higher rate. But at what cost?

Missed Opportunities

Clearly, there are massive numbers of people who get upset with AT&T when they receive their bills every month. Obviously, many of those people leave AT&T for another service as soon as their contracts expire. This is called churn and it’s a major loss leader in the telecom industry.

The following steps outline how AT&T should seize the opportunity to provide an important value-added service to their customers that would not only make those customers happy, but both reduce the churn rate and generate additional revenue.

  1. When a customer chooses their plan, they should be required to sign up for Usage Notification Messages via email, SMS, Twitter DM’s, Facebook, voice mail, smoke signals or whatever method they choose. Upon doing this, they have now Opted-In to receiving constant messaging from AT&T which, in addition to notifying customer of their current usage, could also be filled with special offers, coupons, etc.
  2. One or more of these messages could be a mandatory as part of the contract in order to guarantee that AT&T will be able to reach them with their message.
  3. The customer should be allowed to choose when these messages are sent, and their frequency. A typical messaging program could look like this:
    • Notification 1 – Approaching Limits (Optional): “You requested that this notification be sent to you when you are within XX minutes of your limit. If you would like to purchase additional minutes…”
    • Notification 2 – Limit Reached (Mandatory): “You requested to be notified when you have reached the limit of your contract. Any calls made beyond this point will be billed at XX/minute. However, you can purchase additional minutes at the special rate of YY…”
    • Notification 3 – Weekly Usage Report (Mandatory): “At the time that this message was sent (xx:xx:xxxx), you have used XX minutes out of YY minutes as specified in your plan. If you feel you may exceed your monthly minutes, you can purchase additional minutes at the special rate of YY…”

The benefit to AT&T is that they get a chance to offer the customer something of value while at the same time letting the customer know the status of their account. Their customers will be much more likely to read these messages because it keeps them informed as to how many minutes remain.

Is this simple, or what?

BTW, because AT&T realized they were remiss in notifying me that I had exceeded my minutes, they credited me back the overage. Thanks AT&T!

So, is this simple, or what? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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Going the Extra 3,727 Miles for a Client

Do you go the extra mile for your clients? How about 3,727 miles? In other words, are you prepared to do whatever it takes to make your clients happy? How about simply helping them, just because you can? Certainly there are limits. You need to weigh the immediate benefits to your clients against both the long-term health of the relationship and the potential costs to your business. Sometimes this isn’t an easy calculation; and sometimes it is.

Due to a scheduling conflict, and the recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland that shut down air traffic across Europe, my oldest client was faced with being shorthanded at their booth at a major bi-annual trade show in Amsterdam. I’ve known this client for years and have worked trade shows for them in the past, so they asked if I could go with them and help.

Normally I would have jumped at the chance, but the week of the trade show was going to be a busy one for me and I couldn’t just drop everything, even for a trip in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (not that I expected to see much. I was going to be spending four, eight-hour days on the show floor).

While my client clearly understood, I realized this also left them in a very bad position. Having an understaffed booth could actually hurt their reputation. So, after some considerable juggling, I was able to clear my schedule at attend.

The show was a big success! We made new connections with people representing businesses from twenty-nine countries (see chart) and made a few, really big deals. We also made time to see some of the city (see pictures above), but the most important thing for me was I made my client happy, very happy; indeed.

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Happy Students

I recently launched a Social Network for Temple Beth Am of Abington, PA. The site is designed to increase interaction among the members of a large congregation (almost one thousand families), help coordinate group activities, events and committees, and generally improve communications among the congregation’s membership.

On Tuesday, January 5th, I held the first of what will be regularly scheduled orientation sessions; essentially Ning 101 classes. It was a fun time and I just wanted to share a picture of some of the happy attendees.

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A Special Message for Members of Temple Beth Am

If you arrived here via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other channel, please skip this post. Members of Beth Am, please continue.

For Members of Temple Beth Am: The Beth Am (Ning) Social Network Invitation email that you recently received only allowed for 200 characters. This post offers a slightly longer explanation.

If you read this weeks’ Temple Topics (http://www.oyrtbetham.org/tt_current.html), you may have noticed an article (page 12) about the new Beth Am Social Network. This site was set up to help bring our community together. On the site, you’ll find tools to create your own blog, post pictures and videos, have discussions, create groups, etc. And all within a safe and secure environment.

To join, visit http://oyrtba.ning.com. Once there, enter your name and an email address (please use the email we have on file at Beth Am), then create a password and provide your birthday (sorry, but Ning requires that). You should receive a confirmation email in about 24 hours.

We hope you will explore and have fun. And please be sure to complete your Profile so everyone can get to know you better.

If you have questions or want to learn more about how to use the site, a free tutorial class is scheduled for Tuesday, January 5 at 7 p.m. in the Temple Beth Torah Chapel. In this class, you will learn how to get around the site, set your privacy settings, create and manage groups (if you have a committee, you should definitely come to learn how to set up a group), and much more. Please bring your laptop & wireless card as we aren’t certain how many people the Beth Am router can handle). The class will be taught by our own Social Media expert and network creator, Neal Wiser. RSVP to  nwiser [at] gmail [dot] com (please put “OYRTBA Social Network” in Subject Line).

Sincerely,

Neal Wiser & Lisa Wiser

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A Funny (and true) Job Interview Story

what-the-imageKevin Kermes, publisher of the blog, “Build the Career You Deserve” recently asked for submissions about “Strange Job Interviews and Interview Questions.” Check out my reply,”What the? Strange Tales from the Job Search Front.” Hope you enjoy it (and yes, it’s true).

Thanks to Kevin for publishing it.

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Revisiting Ground Zero; Honoring the Lost of 9/11

This is the first blog post I ever wrote. It is my account of the day I spent at Ground Zero. I was there assisting a friend who was commissioned to bring restoration equipment to One Liberty Plaza, the tall, black monolith-like building across the street from what was once the South Tower. One Liberty Plaza was one of the buildings believed to be in danger of collapse immediately after the attacks of September 11.

 

Although the events of this testimonial occurred on September 25, 2001, two weeks to the day after the attacks, every year, on September 11, I quietly open the original file and read it. I then close the file, but I never forget. Today, I decided to share my experience with you.

 

This post was originally published on the now defunct SiliconPhilly.com in late 2001.

 

Remains of South TowerA DISPATCH FROM GROUND ZERO

 

It was the smell that got to me

I once met a man who had survived Auschwitz. He described the stench of a Nazi concentration camp. The air was filled with an acrid, charred odor belching from the crematoria. It was thick enough to taste. This is what death smelled like. This is what I smelled at Ground Zero.

Two weeks to the day after the attacks, I stood at the very spot where I had once stood on my first trip to the World Trade Center in 1993. I remember tilting my head back until my neck hurt and gazing up at those twin edifices standing so tall and defiant against the deep blue winter sky. So proud they were; a marvel of engineering and symbol of economic vitality. I thought they could withstand eternity.

On September 25th, I tilted my head back until my neck hurt and gazed into an intensely beautiful blue sky where once titans stood, and all I saw was a thin haze of grey smoke, and it was the smell that got to me.

The need to understand

I really didn’t want to go, but my friend needed the help and to be perfectly honest, there was a side of me that needed to see it. It was the side that had watched the attacks unfold live on September 11th from the comfort of my living room, the side that subconsciously still didn’t think it was real. So I went; not so much to deliver much needed equipment, but to understand.

 

Behind the lines

By the time we arrived at Ground Zero, we had already passed through five check points. The area immediately surrounding the World Trade Center was fenced off by armed National Guardsmen checking every vehicle and every occupant for identification. We showed our red laminated Emergency Passes issues by the Mayor’s office and were ushered through each check point.

As we entered Ground Zero, the first thing I saw was the remains of the South Tower, that skeletal framework that had appeared on so many newscasts, news papers and magazine covers. A shiver went down my spine as a grey smoke drifted around it, giving the scene a surreal atmosphere. It was real. It actually happened.

I got out of the car and was immediately struck by the stench of burning materials. Among them were odors I’ve never smelled before, but it didn’t matter, I knew what it was. I put on my respirator and glanced up at my destination; One Liberty Plaza.

Flag on 1LibertyOne-L Plaza is a massive black tower, 50-some floors wrapped in a framework of glass and steel girders. The building looked bent and twisted near the top, but as I had been briefed, that was an optical illusion. That’s what caused so much panic immediately following the attack.

Surrounding us was a scene of complete chaos. Dump trucks, tractors, fire engines and other vehicles moved quickly through the narrow streets of lower Manhattan, their motors shaking the ground. Then a burly, exhausted rescue worker tapped me on the shoulder.

The rules of Ground Zero

 

“Hey, Buddy. You can’t leave your car here,” he said, a weariness in his voice.

“I’m doing restoration work at One Lib,” I replied.

“Yeah, but you see that claw?” He points to a massive four-fingered steel claw attached to an even more massive tractor next to which I had parked. It had been the same claw I had seen on the news picking through the rubble. Only now I realized it was one of dozens.

The worker faces me. “If they need it, they’re just going to pick your car up and move it.” He makes a motion with his hand, like that of a child picking up a toy car and discarding it. He wasn’t being malicious. He was simply telling the truth.

“Where do I park?” I asked.

He shrugs. “I dunno… Wherever you can.” And he walks away.

And that was my introduction to the rules of Ground Zero. There were no rules, just a mission to get the job done. You parked where you can; in my case, between fire engines pumping thousands of gallons of water per day on a still smoldering pile of debris. I hoped it would still be there in an hour.

We delivered our equipment to One Lib quickly. The building was covered with a thick film of ash. Inside, the lobby’s subway entrance was blocked off, but the basement, where we were working, was open. Two weeks after the attack, with extra ventilation equipment blasting air throughout the building, I could still taste the smoke with each breath.

Ground Zero

Three hours later we were finished. Exhausted, we exited the lobby and found ourselves face to face with destruction on a level most Americans only see in the movies. I’ve heard it described as a scene from “Armageddon” or “Independence Day.” While not the best analogies, they suffice. To see such devastation amid towering, ultramodern sky scrapers, one would think it is a movie set… It has to be… but it isn’t. I’ve worked on movie sets. In the movies, the smell doesn’t get to you.

We made our way down the periphery, along a sidewalk littered with the refuse of rescue and fine pieces of debris tracked in by workers. Hundreds of C and D batteries were scattered on the ground. Flashlights and radios need lots of batteries.

A temporary roof was erected over the sidewalk. It was the kind you see in front of a building under construction. Along the entire length of its framework, perhaps a thousand cards and letters and hand made posters gave thanks to the tireless courage of rescue workers – the “Ground Heroes.” Seventh graders from Michigan, third graders from California, a small village in Denmark, and everywhere, hundreds upon hundreds of American flags, and photographs of the missing… and the missing… and the missing…

4 WTCThere is a solemnity at Ground Zero, and numbness. Hundreds of rescue workers, police officers and engineers doing the last thing that they ever could have imagined on September 10th, now hardened by weeks of misery and fortified by a quiet determination.

It is that determination which keeps them digging, for Ground Zero is more than just a pile of smoldering debris. It is the resting place of approximately 3,000 Americans and Germans and Egyptians and Japanese and Hindus and Moslems and Christians and Jews and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and fiends and lovers and on… and on…

That September day

What had happened on that September day, when so many people just like you and I went to work for the last time, will be impossible to forget. Like me, they were filled with hopes and dreams of the future. Like me, none of them could have imagined how that fateful September day was to unravel.

But unravel it did, and now all our days and dreams are a little different. Indeed, some more than others, but the difference is there. That, we cannot change. However, our response to this tragedy, this damnation of our collective psyche is another matter.

Having stood at Ground Zero, having smelled the vapor of death, having seen the mashed rubble, I understand perhaps a little better what those animals tried to take away from me, from you, from all of us on that September day.

90-West-StCoda: Cleansing my soul

That night, after I returned home, I tried to wash the acrid order of horror from my body, but I could not cleanse my soul. I could not sleep. I lay awake and stared up at a blank ceiling. With every blink, I saw the horror of that day. With every breath, I smelled the smoke.

I got out of bed, went into the living room and turned on the TV. Avoiding the news channels, I tried to find something to watch, anything to distract me. The end of a rerun caught my attention; with a steely resolve, the hero was rocketing into space to engage his enemy in a climactic battle whose outcome was less than certain. As his fleet raced into the blackness, his narration set the tone. Of all things; he was quoting “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

…and tho’ we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I always found that quote to be inspirational. Without a doubt, in the aftermath of the evil deeds which I witnessed, I vowed then and there to steel my own resolve; to work harder, to love more passionately, to serve more faithfully and to appreciate all that I have. And though the enemy has wounded us and done far worse to some, it is only through that resolve that I have and will forever defeat them.

——–

Your comments are appreciated.

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Star Trek vs. Windows (Can One Franchise Predict the Success of Another?)

WinTrekThis week, fellow geeks around the world mark the return to the Big Screen of one of Hollywood’s most enduring and venerable brands, Star Trek. Meanwhile, Microsoft is having a premiere of its own with the release of a trial version of its latest and greatest operating system, Windows 7.

Although remarkably different products, movies and computer operating systems share a common trait in that they have a disturbing tendency to become obsolete. In order to remain relevant, these products need occasional updates which can take years and cost millions, or even billions of dollars; and success is never guaranteed.

However, as different as movies and software are from one another, these two brands in particular seem to share a connection made in some previously unknown region of sub-space. Indeed, there may just be a mysterious correlation between of these two franchises that suggests that one my actually predict the success of the other.

“She’s coming apart at the Seams, Captain!”

If you’re a Star Trek fan then you’re surely aware that the luster on Paramount’s golden goose has been a bit tarnished lately. With the under-performance of both the last two television incarnations and the most recent pair of feature films, Star Trek’s warp drive is sputtering and it looks like the deflector shields can no longer sustain the thrashing of the critics, or the disinterest of the fans.

Similarly, Microsoft is hanging more than a bit of its future prospects on Windows 7. A sequel if there ever was one, “7” is supposed to return glory and incalculable wealth to a company still reeling from the thrashing it took after the lack luster and disappointing premier of Windows Vista, a product many reviled as essentially being all shine no substance.

Enterprise Reboot_smBy now it should be obvious that just pumping out another version of the product doesn’t always solve the underlying problem; that, for whatever reason, something about the market has changed and what these brands really needs isn’t a mere remake or sequel, but (for lack of a better phrase), a reboot, a virtual reinvention of the entire product.

Curse of the Odd Number Star Trek Films

However, a Reboot is something easier said than done. While reinventing an established product is never easy, when you have brands of such import and value it’s not just the financial investment of the parent companies which is at stake, but the futures of both the brands and sometimes the parent companies themselves (if not, then at least a few executives).

And of course, as any self respecting Trek fan will tell you, only the even numbered films are any good; this latest incarnation is actually number eleven (and not to be outdone, this latest version of Windows is number “7”). All of which begs the questions; will either of these products be any good?

To Boldly Go where No Franchise has Gone Before

trek3

While the early buzz on both new releases seems very positive, both franchises are, in their own ways, testing uncharted waters and no one really knows what the end result will be; except for me. I have discovered a trend, which if correct, definitively predicts success for both products.

The charts below were produced following a rigorous scientific analysis worthy of Mister Spock (or Bill Gates). After a careful comparison of the two franchises, I have discovered that a successful performance of a Star Trek film or TV series always directly precedes the successful release of the next version of Windows (please note; any continuity errors are the result of an unexpected temporal anomaly).

As you will see, the prospects for both the Star Trek and Windows franchises are, for now, very favorable. However, only the future will be able to determine if they continue to live long, and prosper.

The Original Era

Chart_Original Era

The Revival Era

Chart_Revival Era

The Reboot Era

Chart_Reboot Era

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